Seadragons are a special member of the Syngnathid family only found naturally in Australia. There are three known species, each assigned a separate genus.
They are commonly known as the Leafy Seadragon, Weedy Seadragon and Ribboned Seadragon. They are adorned with ornate appendages and unlike seahorses, the male lacks a pouch. Instead he receives the eggs from the female onto his tail where they develop and then hatch, releasing a young seadragon ready to face the world with no further connection to the parent.
Seahorse Australia has successfully raised hatched juvenile weedy seadragons but is not currently doing this routinely. They are notoriously more difficult to breed in captivity than seahorses and few places have successfully done this.
The Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques) occurs from South Australia across to the southern parts of Western Australia. It is found mainly in seaweed reefs. It is a beautiful animal with elaborate appendages. They are a protected species and wild specimens are very sensitive to various factors leading to likely death for any individuals illegally caught.
The Weedy Seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) is more widespread, occurring from the New South Wales central coast to Perth in Western Australia and around Tasmania. It has a similar habitat to the Leafy Seadragon but can also occur in more open estuaries (including the mouth of the Tamar River near Seahorse World) and in deeper sheltered reefs (Rudie Kuiter: “Seahorses and their relatives” 2009).
The Ribboned Seadragon has only become better known in recent years. It is known from northern Australia through to Papua New Guinea. Unlike the other seadragons, it has the ability to curl its tail and hold onto plants. According to commercial divers, it is extremely difficult to locate in the wild.
Weedy Seadragons can be viewed at our tourist centre Seahorse World.